Laid back Duda encourages Baseball World campers
Updated 11:11 pm, Thursday, July 21, 2011
Duda provided a laid back approach as Baseball World's guest instructor at Wakeman Field in conveying his message to the campers. Similar to two of his teammates (Daniel Murphy and Nick Evans visited last Friday), he focused his pre-instruction sermon on perseverance and determination.
Growing up, Duda always wanted to be a Major League Baseball player. He excelled in the sport he loved but also faced adversity. At age 16, he had Tommy John surgery while playing for Arlington High School in Riverside, Calif.
After graduating from Arlington, Duda played for USC and although he excelled for the Trojans, he had two surgeries, one for his torn labrum and the other for his elbow. One thing his college injuries had in common with his high school injuries was that he felt he had no chances of realizing his dream of making to MLB.
Both times, Duda was determined to battle back and persevered. In order to win what he termed a strenuous mental and physical battle, he spent countless hours in rehab and did the necessary physical therapy to overcome these obstacles.
The rest is history and as Duda told the campers, "don't listener to the doubters." He said there will always be someone who says you aren't able to do it and it's your job to prove them wrong.
"Lucas was so determined to get back onto the baseball field and he thought the 9 Innings Plus [Baseball World's curriculum] was a good teaching tool because those life skills will help you be successful in the game of life," Baseball World owner Vince Diaco said.
Baseball World Instructor Dave "Big Daddy" Rogers said, "He persevered to play the game he loves and it got him in the Mets' lineup, which is a good place to be."
Duda's easy-going approach differentiated himself from Murphy and Evans by mostly letting the kids do their thing and constantly heaped praise whenever they did something right. His lesson was predicated on hitting and he mostly focused on plate coverage.
If a student asked for advice about hitting, Duda would offer pointers and stressed the importance for the hitter to do what he's good at. Using himself as an example, he told the campers how tough it is to hit Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Roy Halliday's cutter and he'd try to eliminate the pitch and he did it by sitting on the outer side of the plate. Whenever Halliday pitched to him, he tried to pull the ball because that's one of his strengths.
The crux of his lessons on hitting was for the batter to keep things simple and plate coverage. Duda said the batter should swing at 45 degree angle, be short to the ball and to choose a zone while at bat.
Once the hitter is at the plate, Duda stressed that he needs to go in there with confidence. He also said the hitter needs to have good balance and always watch the pitcher and the ball.
The lesson Duda taught on hitting was a page out of Baseball World's curriculum which entails three steps. First, the batter needs to step toward the pitch, followed by pivoting on the back foot, which leads to the last step -- swinging shoulder to shoulder.
In advocating how a hitter should handle himself in the batter's box, Duda believes that the hitter needs to swing downward and the less movement, the better. The end result is for everything working together in concert for the hitter. While observing the hitters, he rarely critiqued them and only heaped praise, saying things like, "Good balance" and "Hitting lasers, man."
"Everybody has different personalities," Diaco said. "He didn't make too many corrections and he tried to make sure that the kids have fun because there's too much pressure put on kids today. He feels it's a game and it's meant to be fun. He feels the big thing he can do is give kids positive reinforcement."
Seven Westporters, Russell Kraus, Eric Feuer, Ethan Dean, Cameron Manna, Nick Kornfeld and Jose Rodriguez, age 9, and Simon Gensler, 8, felt they learned from Duda and enjoyed having him as a guest instructor.
"I thought he was a good hitter and his stance helped us on how to hit," Dean said.